Saturday, 18 October 2014

Movie Review: Tammy (2014)

Okay, I swear I didn't plan for this. It just happens that this is the third review in a row where I talk about a lead actor who is best known for playing one character in most of their movies. At least I get to shake things up a bit by talking about an actress this time around: Melissa McCarthy, best known for being the loud obnoxious woman whose weight is the butt of most of the jokes. Well, here's the official notice: I am going to refrain from just constantly making light of her weight, unlike some other reviews out there, because quite frankly it's well-trodden ground and if there's one thing internet critics are well known for, it's originality… wait…

In any case, today's review is on Tammy, which is a good thing because the plot summary for this is going to be dirt simple: It’s a road trip movie, which means that overall plot takes the backseat (What was that I was saying about well-trodden ground before?) to smaller vignettes that make up most of the run-time. For sake of completion, though, here's the rundown: Tammy (played by Melissa McCarthy) has one hell of a shit day and decides to hit the road and get away from everyone. Her grandmother (played by Susan Sarandon), the only one willing to let her use her car, tags along as they make their way to Niagra Falls.

Here's where we get to the ugly business of the comedy. Not because it was bad (far from it), but because it involves me critiquing comedy. Comedy is quite possibly the most subjective thing ever conceived, and as such it is literally the only area where a person can't be objective in talking about it. But, I've found that that's only really a problem if someone isn't laughing, so there shouldn't be any issues here. In all honesty, because of how overly fair I've been to movies so far, I was hoping for proper bad with this one, if for no other reason than to have something good to rant about. But no, this movie had to spoil my fun and actually be halfway decent. While it definitely has its duds, like most comedies admittedly, it definitely got some good laughs out of me. It’s rare that a film can make me laugh at an out-of-nowhere Hitler joke (Seriously, it was like drive-by Godwin; it was weird), but this one managed it. McCarthy mostly switches between two modes here: Obnoxious and abrasive, and goofy and awkward. Honestly, I prefer her more when she’s awkward. When she got all shouty, which was for all of the first several minutes, I was starting to tune out and thought that this was just going to be another Sex Tape (5 minutes of dud comedy put to the taffy puller for 90 minutes). However, when she calms down a bit, she's legitimately quite funny. I had a similar reaction to last year's The Heat, which was a slow burner but ended up pretty good. She's quite a good physical comedian (No, I’m still not making any of those jokes), in that most of the laughs she garners are from her actions rather than her words. The robbery scene that was in the early trailers for the film is a good example of this, as well as a pretty good litmus test for whether or not this will be your cup of tea overall.

So, McCarthy checks out fine, what about the supporting cast? Well, Susan Sarandon does a good job with her material also. She reminded me a lot of the grandpa from Little Miss Sunshine, a comparison I am dead certain they were aware of while filming because of a particular scene near the end. I won't spoil it, because it is one of the better laughs in this movie, but needless to say you can see the resemblance between the two characters. Aside from that, Sarandon proves that she hasn't lost an ounce of her talent, delivering both the comedy and the more tender moments excellently. The scene where she literally dresses down the jet ski owner proves that being a smartarse knows no age. Mark Duplass, who plays the love interest Bobby, has such good chemistry with McCarthy that if I didn't know any better I would guess that he was her real-life husband. But no, it was the douchy boss from Not-McDonald’s that was played by her husband/director/co-writer. Fool me once. The other members of the cast, such as Gary Cole, Kathy Bates, Sandra Oh and Dan Aykroyd, do very well with their roles. Kinda made me think that the casting department pulled out their 'Getting Too Old For This Shit' rolodex, but I won’t knock it too hard since it worked so well (Aykroyd turns his short cameo into a thesis for why he should be cast in more movies).

The tender moments are actually where this film’s writing shows some of its true colours. The essential message here is, what with the opening pulled straight out of Drop Dead Fred, that Tammy has the right to be as happy as everyone else, but that doesn't mean it’s going to come easy. In countless other movies, we've seen characters go through the gauntlet and have every single bad thing happen to them in sequence, usually with a friend telling them that everything is going to be okay. This movie, by comparison, instead says that things can be okay but it isn't going to come easy. You will have those days where you lose your money, your car and your husband all in one lunch hour (Hopefully, not too often), but everyone has the chance to be happy in the end. The scene where all this is laid out is at a mostly-lesbian Fourth of July party in a conversation between Tammy and Kathy Bates' Lenore, both showing their chops and making me curious about McCarthy's supposedly more serious role in St. Vincent's, which comes out here in December. While I’m sure that there are more than a few people out there who would take umbrage at McCarthy comparing her struggles as a fat white woman in America (I refuse to say 'white people problems' because I have a serious disdain for that term) to the plights of homosexuals in America, I can see the angle McCarthy is going for with this. It's not airtight, especially when one considers the fat joke parade that is Mike & Molly, but I can at least get it.

The soundtrack is pretty good, with plenty of nice road trip songs, but there's one part in particular where the soundtrack genuinely surprised me: The Fourth of July party. With a few rare exceptions, party music in movies ALWAYS sucks. But here, we have Salt-N-Pepa and Kool & The Gang. This isn't quite as good as the Bad Neighbors soundtrack, which managed to turn Fergie's London Bridge into a great musical cue (Making anything good from that song is nothing short of a miracle), but it’s damn good nonetheless. I will say though, I am slightly disappointed that they didn't stick with Gangsta’s Paradise for the robbery scene like in the trailer. I say 'slightly' because they instead went with Macklemore's Thrift Shop, which is like crack for the eardrums in any context.

All in all, this was surprisingly good. If you’re a fan of McCarthy from her role in The Heat (Sorry, I haven’t watched any other movies she's in yet, so I can’t really speak on them), then you'll definitely like her here. Even if you haven't seen her own brand of comedy yet, this would be a good point to try it out and see if it's your thing. This is better than Kick, as it didn't take nearly as long to start getting good, but it falls a bit under The Equalizer, which was yet even more consistent. This puts it squarely in the 'good' section'.


One final word on this: A Viking funeral for a jet ski at a lesbian Fourth of July party. This is a thing that happens.

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